What follows are notes from a meal in May 2009.
The a la carte menu was £68 for three courses, with a tasting menu at £85 and a lunch menu at £38. The substantial wine list has plenty of well-chosen growers at mark-ups that apparently are regarded with horror by some locals yet seem almost fair after the gouging lists of central London. My favourite Italian white wine, Vintage Tunina 2004 is £76 on the list here compared to a retail price of around £26. Leeuwin Art Series Shiraz 2004 is £59 for a wine you can buy in the shops for around £14, while at the more rarefied end of the spectrum, Kistler Vine Hill 2004 is £231 compared to a retail price (if you could find it) of around £100, while Opus One 1997 at £244 is a relative bargain, since this could set you back getting on for £200 in the shops these days. Bread is made from scratch and is a choice of either white or brown slices, both very good, with airy texture (17/20).
A palate cleanser of pink grapefruit and champagne foam was a pleasant way to begin, and was refreshing (16/20). This was followed by an enjoyable dish of smoked haddock with grain mustard and mustard cress, the elements going really well together, with a barely cooked egg lurking in the depths of the dish and giving an enjoyable additional flavour and sensual texture (17/20).
My scallops were hand-dived, plump and sweet and served whole rather than sliced, which is just as they should be. They were nicely timed, served with celeriac puree, a little caramel and a fan of Granny Smith apple slices giving some welcome acidity (strong 16/20, pushing 17/20). Other enjoyable starters tried by my companions were home-smoked mackerel with excellent pickled cucumber, bourbon, caviar and lime, and a confit of red mullet with Parmesan puree and Iberico ham.
My main course (which featured on the Great British Menu TV series) was slow-roasted pork, with pork belly, Savoy cabbage, apple and shallot. The pork itself was excellent, with cooking juices poured over it at the table, and the cabbage was very good indeed. A garnish of a stick of crackling gave a pleasant crunchy texture contrast, while a fondant potato was hollowed out, with a little pork inside (18/20). This was, by common consent, the star of the main courses tried.
Cheese was supplied by Premiere Cheese. I often complain about cheese boards in England (many of which are supplied by this company), but often I think it is restaurants not being careful enough in selecting cheese that is ripe, rather than the suppliers necessarily being at fault. Certainly the mix of English and French cheeses here were in perfectly good condition (17/20).
A pre-dessert of tiramisu was very good, the coffee flavour quite restrained (17/20), and with a fine chocolate sorbet having perfect texture. My dessert of apple tarte tatin was enjoyable, but the pastry seemed a little undercooked (16/20), and while the garlic and bay leaf ice cream on the side was not as weird as it sounds, who would sensibly choose this over just a vanilla ice cream? A test tube of apple puree was a good demonstration of why a test-tube is a silly way to serve food, since fiddling around with a straw to get at the contents of the test-tube was, for me, just an annoying distraction.
A generous round of very good beignets and a selection of chocolates were served with the aromatic, strong coffee. Service under Hervé Dubois, who I always felt was one of the better maitre d’s in the UK ever since his time at the Capital and at the old Petrus, was very good indeed, efficient and attentive without being intrusive.
Overall I found this a very enjoyable experience, the caveat being it did not really hit the culinary heights as often as I had hoped it might; however this was as much to do with my elevated expectations as to any problem with the dishes. There were no real errors, the menu was enjoyable, the cooking capable, the setting and service lovely.
Further reviews: 07th Jan 2012